Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So While We're Going to Spend All This Money...

Twenty months and $29 million. That's how long the Trinity River Toll Road will be delayed and how much the delay will cost.

Why? Because the Army Corp of Engineers don't believe that Dallas' levees are strong enough to withstand a flood the equivalent of the 1990 flood that devastated South Dallas and the Cadillac Heights area of Dallas. Anyone remembering those floods may welcome the delay. But its certainly not reassuring in the grand scope of things.

There exist now, a small army of people who don't believe this thing will ever get built! Some who don't believe it should.

Ten years ago, the Trinity River Project was approved by voters at a cost of about $246 million. Then-mayor, Ron Kirk said it was a ten year project including a toll road, levees, freeway projects, lakes, trails and southeast Dallas forest preserve. Now, "The Trinity Parkway [a 10-mile toll road extending from Interstate 35E South to U.S. 175, bypassing around downtown Dallas] could cost close to $1 billion more than the North Texas Tollway Authority can afford to pay to build it, officials say."

"The enormous gap means that if the parkway is built, taxpayers would pay more than half of the 10-mile road's cost, even as drivers will be left paying tolls on the highway for generations."

These were figures that came in before, Mayor's estimates previously cited above. Now, there are those who are using the word 'boondoggle' to describe the whole thing.

My how time flies!
Associated with this parkway, and not talked about nearly often enough, is the redevelopment it can and should spur in one of the poorest sections of Dallas. Yeah, I know...more money.

The path of the Trinity River Parkway cuts along the western edge of South Dallas. Complementary planning has involved the redesign of S.M. Wright Freeway, into a parkway that ideally would be low speed and low density. The South Dallas Hope Initiative, an organization made of of local clergy and community leaders are determined to see that this vision is the one included in the overall plan.
As much as this will add to the overall plan - the fact is the S.M. Wright redesign, is not necessarily dependent on the toll road. It may be complementary, indeed, but not dependent.

Further, the future growth of Dallas is dependent on the revitalization of South Dallas. Not piece-meal, project based efforts but real wholesale development. Economic. Residential. Infrastructural, not only the redesign of S.M. Wright, but even along the street grid itself. There's much more to this plan, but more about that later.

Some citizens are bemoaning the construction of a city owned hotel and the announcement that this Trinity River parkway is going to cost much more than anyone dared dream of (why, I don't know - anyone ever heard of a public works project that came in on time and on budget?!). But we are living in an age in which the return on every investment is being measured in multiple decades, not just years.

While we're evaluating that kind of ROI, let's do some things that are really meaningful!

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